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May 18 2012

Review of Mortal Kombat (VITA Edition)

Well we’re getting at this a little late thanks to some technical issues but when is it not a good time for Mortal Kombat? If you said anytime after UMK3 but prior to last year’s MK9 well…yeah…but MKvsDC was pretty cool in its own way. We’re not here to focus on the series’ harder times though we’re here to talk about how its phoenix like return last year translates to Sony’s high-tech handheld. Lord knows the system is hurting for some good games so let’s see if this title is as much of a must buy here as it was on the big boy consoles.

You can actually activate X-ray attacks and Fatalities through the touch screen, optionally thank the Elder Gods.

Before we get into what’s been added let’s talk about the overall quality of this port from a technical point of view. First off the controls are exactly how you want them to be thanks to the VITA’s very nice clicky buttons. It seems a weird thing to praise, I know, but they let you know a button has been pressed properly so to speak and make kombos and special moves a breeze to pull off. The audio quality and the cutscenes in the story mode are also translated flawlessly but the visual quality of the gameplay was not. The character models are significantly less impressive than their console counterparts with far less detail, especially in the damage decals. While this was to be expected it is a bit more drastic than I thought it would be; it almost seems as though some assets might have been taken from a scrapped PSP version of the game or something along those lines. Thankfully for the most part you won’t notice it too much, only in story mode is it a major problem as the cutscenes retain the visual fidelity of the console versions. The way the game seamlessly moves between cutscene and gameplay, while still impressive, is now slightly jarring thanks to this visual inequity. Online multiplayer also returns in this version but if you have a WiFi model VITA (which the majority of the world does as I think only the US and Japan got the 3G option) you might as well not bother and just play the console version because at that point you’ll need to be near a friendly router to play reliably anyways. You can always play ad-hoc with someone nearby who also owns MK but it’s rare I meet someone with a VITA, let alone someone with the same games I have. All that said if you’re looking for online multiplayer fighting then this game on this system should be nowhere close to your first choice, what you’re coming here for is a ridiculous amount of super fun single player content.

I wasn't joking. See, Fruit Ninja with body parts.

For whatever technical problems there may be with the port quality of this game it can be all be forgiven when you take into account the sheer amount of content given here; I’d almost go so far as to say this was the definitive version of this game. Not only are all the DLC characters included but so is Kratos, all the preorder skins, a whole whack of new skins, and a whole second challenge tower (150 new missions) filled with VITA specific goodness. Also keep in mind that this game is $40 which is $10 cheaper than the “Komplete Edition” of this game for the consoles which actually has less content.than this version. The VITA specific additions while feeling a little gimmicky work quite well with the games violently goofy tone. Stuff like a balance game using the VITA’s tilt sensor and a Fruit Ninja parody involving body parts are weirdly fun. They even find ways to slip the controls into more standard fight style challenges in some kooky ways like keeping your character’s head from exploding by having to tap it repeatedly in between kombos. Pretty much everything feels like the devs having a lot of fun with the hardware and it never intrudes on the primary experience; it may be pointless gimmickry but it’s pointless gimmickry you can feel really good about.

In the end this is a fantastic version of an already fantastic game and while there certainly are a few pronounced problems, none of them take away from the core pleasures of NetherRealm’s tribute to insane stupid violence. All the extra content makes this the version to get in a lot of ways and the bite-sized gameplay of the challenge towers make it perfect for the commuter who’s not afraid of playing M-rated games on the bus. Add onto this the fact that VITA players need something, oh god anything, to play right now as releases have been rather lean and this becomes an incredibly attractive offer. That’s why I’m very happy to give Mortal Kombat (VITA Edition) a 5 out of 5 stars. While the graphics may not be at their best here, even on the small screen it remains a larger than life experience.

By the way as a bonus for all you loyal readers, here’s how to unlock a fun little easter egg in the game’s practice mode. At the character select screen press triangle to access the arena select and then at the arena select press both the shoulder buttons, you’ll know you’ve done it right when that dick Shao Kahn starts laughing.

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